This was a fun game to be at. It was my first game having gone to that season as just a fan. I didn't have to worry about being cool, calm and collected up in the press box. I could get as excited as I wanted. And I certainly did. I also realize that I have the best luck meeting UGA fans. I know a lot of people run into the obnoxious ones (and trust me, I have too), but I was very thankful to sit next to one in particular that was this really cool old guy. He was actually a Tech alum, but switched his allegiance after his kids (or grandkids, not sure which) decided to go to UGA. We had some great discussions all throughout the game and after it was over, he was very congratulatory. So if you are by some chance reading this, I do want to thank you for my pleasant experience in Sanford Stadium.
The game itself was fantastic though. And by fantastic, I mean it was an emotional roller coaster. I felt like I was going from really excited to "Oh no, this is gonna happen again." That's exactly how I felt as UGA had scored the go-ahead touchdown. I don't think I'll need to remind y'all of what happened next, so instead I'm just going to leave this here, so you can see for yourself.
QB Hutson Mason
A lot of UGA fans didn't like Hutson Mason. I would say that the reason for that was that he had to follow Aaron Murray who was a pretty good quarterback in his time at UGA, so of course Mason wasn't going to be as good as a four-year starter. Personally, I don't think he was that bad of a quarterback. He wasn't the best quarterback, but he did what he was asked to do pretty well for the most part, and that was don't screw up and give the ball to
Gurley Chubb. He was also efficient through the air, completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 2,168 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. He was pretty safe with most of his passes (7.1 yards/attempt), but you knew he was going to at least complete the pass. Now that he's gone, there is a quarterback race where no one is really distancing themselves from the other while the coaching staff quietly waits on the arrival of rising high school senior and five-star quarterback Jacob Eason.
HB Todd Gurley
Granted, Todd Gurley didn't play as much as people would have hoped due to his suspension and injury, you can't overlook the departure of a running back like Todd Gurley. A lot of commentators think the Dawgs will be fine with Nick Chubb (and they should be), but Chubb is no Gurley. Chubb is a good back, but Gurley takes the game to a whole nother level. Chubb is just a hard back to bring down. Gurely is a lot more than that. He runs like a scat back, but can also run you over like he's Jerome Bettis. He is a great football player and will be severely missed.
WRs Michael Bennett and Chris Conley
Losing your starting quarterback is never fun. It's even worse when you also lose your two top receivers. It's not that bad, though, when you don't throw it that much, and with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb running the ball, throwing the ball wasn't very necessary. Chris Conley led the team in receiving yards with 657 yards on 36 catches. Michael Bennett wasn't terribly far behind him catching the ball 37 times for 404 yards. So while neither of them really set the world on fire, they did have experience, something that tends to play dividends.
C David Andrews
Out of all the people you can lose on your offensive line, the one that's one of the worst to lose when breaking in a new quarterback is the center, especially when you have one as experienced as David Andrews was for the Bulldogs. He capped off a good career at UGA last season by being named second team All-SEC and also led the offensive linemen in starts with 40. Right now, last year's starting left guard Brandon Kublanow and Isaiah Wynn are competing to be his replacement. It looks like those two will be at center and left guard, though it is up in the air as to who will be at which.
DE Ray Drew
UGA lost their three top tacklers from the defensive line from last season. Leading that group was Ray Drew. Drew has been a mainstay on this defense for the last few years. While down from his six-sack season in 2013, Drew still provided a solid player along the defensive line. He finished the season with 27 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He also blocked three kicks (one field goal, two PATs).
LBs Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera
Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera led UGA in tackles last year and were consistent mainstays from the inside linebacker positions in UGA's 3-4 defense. Wilson led the way from the Mike position with 83 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Some would argue that Herrera was just as good, though, finishing with 79 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Regardless of which one was better, they were both pretty good players and will be missed by this UGA defense.
CB Damian Swann
Despite not being able to go up against Darren Waller, Damian Swann wasn't a terrible corner for UGA by any stretch of the imagination. He led the secondary in tackles with 50, while also having 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He was also excellent at causing some disruptive plays, as shown by his four interceptions and four forced fumbles, not to mention his eight pass break-ups.
HB Nick Chubb
While he's no Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb is still a very good running back. In just his freshman year last year, Chubb carried the load with 219 rushes for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns. UGA is going to need to find someone else to give the ball to, though. For someone who wasn't the starter the whole season, 219 carries is a lot. If they remain completely dependent on Chubb, that number could skyrocket even higher (a very real possibility with no quarterback). It further exemplifies the need for Sony Michel and Keith Marshall to get and remain healthy.
WR Malcolm Mitchell
Malcolm Mitchell will give whomever becomes the starting quarterback an experienced, albeit injury prone, receiver to throw it to. As a junior last year, Mitchell caught 31 catches for 248 yards. As the most experienced receiver returning, Mitchell's leadership will be vital. He will be looked up to all season as the younger receivers are still learning.
4/5 of the Offensive Line
Experience is the best thing you can have on an offensive line. Despite losing their most experienced lineman, UGA still returns 80 combined starts among the remaining four players. Leading the way there is left tackle and former five-star recruit John Theus with 35 starts. Joining him are right tackle Kolton Houston (19 starts), right guard Greg Pyke (13 starts, second team All-SEC) and left guard Brandon Kublanow (13 starts).
DL Josh Dawson
Last year for UGA, Josh Dawson was able to do a good job of both setting the edge in the running and also even getting a little bit of pressure on the quarterback. As a senior on this defensive line, some of the younger guys (mainly thinking Trenton Thompson) will be looking up to him as a mentor. Last season, he finished with 13 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack.
LBs Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Lorenzo Carter
A big part of UGA's defense last year was the pass defense. As a former defensive backs coach, first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt keyed in on shutting down the passing game. He was very thankful he was able to get some good pressure on the quarterback from Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Lorenzo Carter. Floyd, now a junior, led the way in this trio with 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also managed to force three fumbles. Jenkins is the old guy of the group now that he's a senior. He finished last season with 51 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Carter is the guy to keep an eye on this year, though. As just a freshman last season, Carter made his presence known with 29.5 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
FS Quincy Mauger
After Damian Swann, Quincy Mauger was the next-best defensive back. The former three-star recruit finished the season with 42.5 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, and also had four interceptions and four pass break-ups, while staying mostly in the defensive backfield. As a first-year starter, those are some pretty solid numbers--especially the four interceptions.
Whoever Plays Quarterback
Although Brice Ramsey was listed as the starter in the most recent release of UGA's depth chart, it is still a wide-open competition among three players: Ramsey (a redshirt sophomore), junior Faton Bauta and UVA-transfer and junior Greyson Lambert. Ramsey acted as Hutson Mason's back-up last year and has been the favorite throughout the competition. Redshirt freshman Jacob Park was also a contender in the competition before announcing his intentions to transfer. Each quarterback has shown enough promise that it has really divided the fanbase. And all for what? By this point next year, no matter who starts will just be having to fight off rising high school senior and five star quarterback Jacob Eason, who is being touted as UGA's next great quarterback. Out of the group, I think Ramsey will have the starting job by the end of the season. It'll be a long and bumpy road to it though.
WR Terry Godwin
UGA probably isn't going to need to throw it much this year, but I'm sure that between first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and head coach Mark Richt, they can find some fancy way to use Terry Godwin. A five-star athlete according to Rivals (6.1) and 247Sports (0.9871) and standing at 5-foot-11, 174 pounds, Godwin is explosive. UGA is going to find a way to get the ball in this kid's hands and he could end up having a dynamite year as a freshman.
DT Trenton Thompson
UGA fans have been excited about Trenton Thompson for a while now. It's no secret why. This kid was about as good as it gets at the high school level. As a five-star recruit by both Rivals (6.1) and 247Sports (0.9991), Thompson was considered arguably the best player in the country at the high school level. Jeremy Pruitt is hoping that that will transfer over to the college level as Thompson joins a defensive line with the fans' expectations set high. Thompson is listed at 6-foot-4, 307 pounds.
LB Jake Ganus
After the UAB debacle, every player was allowed to transfer to another FBS school without having to sit out a year in accordance with NCAA regulations. Only a few actually decided to go to another FBS program, but Jake Ganus was one of those. Now a senior, Ganus projects to take over one of the inside linebacker spots vacated by Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera. Last year for the Blazers, Ganus was one of the top defenders, finishing with 58.5 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. The thing that will be the trick for him is how he adjusts to P5-level football and also having to learn a new defensive system (UAB ran a 4-3 last year).
UGA looks like it could have a pretty good season. In what seems like somewhat of a rebuilding year in the SEC East, it shouldn't take too much to make an appearance in the SEC Championship game this year. If they can manage to find a quarterback, I would argue that they are a shoo-in for a title match-up. They haven't done that yet, though. And until they do, it's hard to pick them being as good as they could be. I'm reminded of the old saying, "If you have two quarterbacks, you've got none." And in this case, UGA's got three. And it's not likely that whoever does start this year will hold onto that job for next year, which makes me even less confident. I think they'll end up in the 8-10 win range, but national champions, this team is not.
As for their game against the Jackets, I think it will turn out to be like the last couple of games: hard-fought and not decided until the very end of the game. If UGA can manage to improve their rush defense from the abomination it was last year, they definitely have a chance to beat Tech. Right now, though, I don't have faith that they will. I'll say Tech wins 28-27 and Tech runs the state for another year.